Arizona has license plates supporting breast cancer research, calling for child-abuse prevention, and for those supporting wildlife-conservation efforts, to name a few. Now, if two Arizona legislators have their way, the mantra of Tea Partiers across the country will be slapped onto the tags of any Arizonan who wants it.
State representatives Vic Williams and David Stevens have introduced HB 2459, which would amend the law currently on the books for specialized license plates to include a plate with the Tea Party slogan "Don't Tread on Me."
Although, there may be a problem -- for the Tea Partiers, that is.
As the bill is written, it seems "any entity" can raise the money to have the rights to design and collect the fee for the plates.
See the amendment below:
If an entity receives thirty‑two thousand dollars through donations for the issuance of the don't tread on me special plate and gives the department the thirty‑two thousand dollars, the department shall issue don't tread on me special plates. The entity that provides the thirty‑two thousand dollars shall design the don't tread on me special plate. The design and color of the don't tread on me special plates are subject to the approval of the department. The director may allow a request for don't tread on me special plates to be combined with a request for personalized special plates. If the director allows such a combination, the request shall be in a form prescribed by the director and is subject to the fees for the personalized special plates in addition to the fees required for don't tread on me special plates.
B. Of the twenty‑five dollar fee required by section 28‑2402 for the original special plates and for renewal of special plates, eight dollars is a special plate administration fee and seventeen dollars is an annual donation.
C. The department shall deposit, pursuant to sections 35‑146 and 35‑147, all special plate administration fees and all donations collected pursuant to this section in the state highway fund established by section 28‑6991.
To say "any entity" can raise the money is not the norm when it comes to specialty plates.
In most cases, like breast-cancer-awareness plates, and all specialty plate legislation we've seen, the "entity" is identified as a specific not-for-profit group. The "annual donation," described in section B of the amendment also is specified to go toward a specific group or cause. In the "Don't Tread on Me" amendment, the "annual donation" appears to go toward the State Highway Fund.
Those in the know tell New Times that not specifying where the "annual donation" is to be designated anywhere in the amendment is a first.
It seems the Tea Party just wants its message -- which was hijacked from the United States Marine Corps, by the way -- heard, but doesn't have a not-for-profit organization to designate the "annual donation."
The "any entity" aspect of the amendment could spell trouble for the Tea Party. Hypothetically, "any" group -- say, a not-for-profit "anti-gun" group -- able to cough up $32,000 could have rights to the plate and therefore donate the "annual donation" to any charity they see fit.
In other words -- and in a perfect world -- gun-lovin' Tea Partiers could shell out $25 and have a portion of that money go toward non-profit groups that want tougher gun laws.
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Oh, sweet irony...
We've been playing phone tag with Representative Williams for further clarification. We'll let you know if we get in touch with him.
UPDATED: Click here for Representative Williams' explanation of the bill.